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Crystal River ballots set

Published Oct. 18, 2005

The campaigns for two City Council seats ended Friday before they even got under way. Only one candidate entered each council race by Friday's qualifying deadline. Newcomer Frank Schiraldi and incumbent Sid Kennedy are unopposed, and their names won't appear on the Dec. 11 ballot.

The same can't be said of the mayor's seat, the only other race in the city this year.

Four candidates have leapt into the void left by outgoing Mayor Herb Williams, who is not running after 10 years at the city's helm.

The deadline to register to vote in the election is Nov. 12.

The mayoral candidates are:

Kitty Ebert, a current City Council member.

John Morrison, a former city manager fired in 1983 and owner of John Morrison Termite & Pest Control Inc.

Curtis Rich, owner of Curtis Tool Co., which makes rock drilling tools.

R.C. "Bud" Robertson, a retired construction company owner and unsuccessful mayoral candidate in 1988.

Robertson's 1988 campaign was the only challenge to Williams after the mayor's election in 1980. In 1988, Williams won 54 percent of the vote, defeating Robertson by 331 to 282 votes.

The mayor and City Council members serve two year terms beginning Jan. 1. They are paid $4,213.44 a year.

The mayor sits with the council, but does not have a vote. He can veto council decisions. Beginning this year, the mayor also took on the added responsibility of running the often-tumultuous council meetings.

Robertson, who was on the committee that recommended that the mayor chair the meetings, said that if he is elected he would use a mix of parliamentary procedure and common sense to try to bring some decorum to the council meetings.

"I think the important thing is to see if we can get an evening where they aren't tearing each others eyes and nails out and at least act like ladies and gentlemen," he said.

Unlike Williams, he said he would not give his opinion on issues during council discussion to try to be a neutral moderator. He also promised to use the gavel more to shorten discussion.

Rich, while refraining from criticizing Williams, said he wants the council to work together more as a team.

He stressed the need to build a positive image for the city. A high priority for him would be forming a city beautification committee. Composed of members from local clubs, the group would encourage a cooperative effort to landscape and keep properties mowed and cleaned up.

Morrison said he thinks he can streamline city government but offered no specifics. He said he would work hard to be an effective liaison between the council and the people, if elected.

"It ain't no secret that I got fired," he said of his city manager past, but he added that he thinks his experience as city manager from 1969 to 1983 is "worth something."

Ebert could not be reached for comment Friday.

As a City Council member, she has been a strong proponent of running the city more professionally. She spearheaded the move to fire former City Manager Gil Hess for incompetence and has criticized the city staff for failing to do its job.

Ebert also has encouraged city supervisors to attend seminars to improve their administrative skills.

Schiraldi, a fishing guide who is retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said he will try to make the city run more efficiently. He couldn't provide any specifics but said he thinks most of the city's problems are economic.

A former president of the Citrus County chapter of the Florida Conservation Association, a coalition of recreational fishermen, Schiraldi has been an outspoken opponent of strict boat speed limits to protect endangered manatees.

"We've got a group of people that would like to create manatee world" and close down the Crystal River, he told the County Commission in April. "The minute you find me a manatee who pays the taxes, I'll move out, and he can move in."

He said Friday that he believes in compromise: "I am first and foremost for human safety and human rights, and I think there's room for everybody to be able to coexist without the radicals on either end infringing on the other persons."

Kennedy was on the council from 1978 to 1986 and elected again in 1988. In the last two years, he has stayed out of much of the bickering among council members.

In heated arguments, "most times, you just lose sight of what you're trying to accomplish. You get too emotional and you don't get good decisions," he said.

He sometimes presents compromises to try to resolve the differences.

Kennedy worked at Pro-Line Boats for eight years in various supervisory positions before being laid off with 67 other workers last week.